19. That’s how many healthy babies were born at Buiga Sunrise Grace Family Health Centre in the month of June. 19 tiny beating hearts, 380 wriggling fingers and scrunched up little toes, and an insurmountable amount of joy and relief in the welcome of new life.
A mother and her new baby, born this June, at Grace Family Health Centre
June marked the record for the most births in one month, and represents a milestone as the clinic continues to expand its impact and practices in the community of Banda Kyandaaza in central Uganda. Along with this burgeoning growth comes new hopes and new trepidations as traditional medicine is incorporated along with western practices to try and ensure the safest and most comfortable care possible for their patients.
In the community where Grace Family Health Centre first opened its doors, trips to the hospital are often avoided due to the overwhelming medical bills that come along with them. A delivery at the nearest hospital can cost anywhere from 100,000 to 500,000 shillings. While it is often safer than a traditional home birth, this safety comes at the price of foregoing many traditional cultural practices. In comparison, a delivery at the Grace Family Health Centre costs only 15,000 shillings (the equivalent to $5), which covers the price of the birth kit with medical supplies for the labor. If women at the Centre cannot afford the price of the kit, they are able to pay it in installments or through working in the garden that supplies the Centre with medicinal herbs and plants.
However, much of the trepidation surrounding hospitals and clinics still lingers in the community, a fact that became all too clear when a mother in critical condition came into the Health Centre after many hours of active labor. The staff at the clinic worked tirelessly to try and save both the mother and her premature baby’s life.Due to late stage of the labor and the lack of proper medical equipment for such a critical birth, the baby died on the way to the hospital. In moments like these, there are no numbers or statistics that seem capable of justifying the loss of a new life. The grief felt by all involved with the birth seems to echo in a collection of what if questions: what if the mother had known about the affordable price of an assisted birth at the Health Centre? What if we could afford the proper equipment to prolong life? What if that number of newborns was 20, instead of 19?
This loss served as a harrowing reminder of the importance of the work and services offered by the Health Centre, which has become a pillar of compassionate care and health in its community. Now, with the recent hiring of two traditional birth attendants from the village, there is an even larger number of mothers and babies who have access to these services. Together, the health team is working to strike a balance that allows tradition, culture, and medical technology to harmoniously provide the best possible care.
New mother with her twin babies, Kato and Babirye
This is precisely what happened on the 9th of June, when a mother delivering twins was brought into the clinic after avoiding the government clinic she was referred to for fear of the overwhelming fees. Together, the birth attendants and midwives surrounded her with love and support as they brought two healthy babies into the world. In central Uganda, twins are considered a magical occurrence for the family. However, due to the lack of safe and affordable medical care, this sense of magic is often lost in the stress and danger of what should be an uneventful delivery. Due in part to the services that the Health Centre provided, the magic of two new lives was able to be celebrated with joy by all.
As the clinic continues to grow, there will surely be more opportunities for celebration and for sorrow, for tradition and technology. But most of all, there will be more women and babies that are given a chance, and nothing seems more magical than that.
For more information on the Grace Family Health Centre and Buiga Sunrise, visit their website at www.buiga-sunrise.org. Buiga Sunrise is part of GFH’s Healthy, Compassionate Birthing network.
Guest author — Sarah Richmond is a summer intern at Global Force for Healing. She is passionate about social justice, community connectivity, and shining a light on a diverse array of storytelling voices. She is currently studying economics at Reed College.